How To: Outside light

Kristina asked if I would write a blog post on my technique for achieving the glowing outdoor window light in the photo from my last blog post.

So here it is.

I’ve had this technique in my bag for many years now, it gives a more natural feel to an environment where bright outdoor light is mixed with a darker indoor light. The idea is to simulate the very high dynamic range of indoor vs. outdoor light in the way that our eyes are used to seeing it.

I actually got the idea while shopping in my local supermarket on a sunny day. Looking outside from the (relatively) dimly lit shop the light was intensely bright. That gave me the inspiration to start trying to replicate the effect in the studio.

This technique requires two light sources (I use Nikon SB-800 Speedlites, remotely triggered, always on manual settings), one set to be your main light, and the other to be your over-exposed backlight. You’ll want this backlight to be diffused so it evenly lights your window. Why not just ramp up the power on a bare light? It’s going to be overexposed anyway? You only want your light to be a little overexposed. If you push it too much you’ll end up with light blowing out of every small crack in your scenery, or, if your scene is even slightly translucent (like LEGO bricks are!), your whole wall will start to glow.

This is my setup. I’m using a “Speedlite Pro Kit” reflector with a diffusion panel to both diffuse the light and limit spillage.


My main light is a single Speedlite into a white shoot-through umbrella. This light provides a nice soft fill for the scene.

Both of the flashes are on 1/32 power, but because of the difference in distance from the subject the main light will contribute far less light to the scene than the backlight.

This is what it looks like when shot, notice how much brighter the backlight is than the main light. This is the key to the effect.


And if we point the camera somewhere useful, this is what we end up with:


I’ve obviously cropped the image to square, but other than that this is straight out of the camera. Easy isn’t it?


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8 years ago

Beautiful use of light!
I simply love it. ;)

8 years ago

Love it :)

Stefan K
8 years ago

That is just brilliant! Very kind of you to share this trick

Hasif Rahman
Hasif Rahman
8 years ago

Wow ! Its truly amazing ! A simple trick but with superb output !

Maybe somehow, one day you can publish a book with a title “Behind The Scene in Lego Photography”

Surely i’ll buy it ! =)

8 years ago

Wonderful tip! Thank you for sharing your behind the scenes technique with us :-)

8 years ago

Nice tip! Thank you for sharing it !

I sometimes use a white plastified piece of paper instead of the umbrella ( I don’t have one :( ) and bounce the light coming from the flash.

I lose power in the main light but it works ! I’ll buy an umbrella soon ! Do you have advices when ordering an umbrella (my pictures are 90% LEGO) ?

Thanks again and keep up the amazing work !

8 years ago
Reply to  Balakov

Hi Mike,

Thanks for your answer ! I own a Lastolite Ezybox speed-lite and, so far, I’m shooting pretty much every picture with it, mounted on my cobra flash, on a dedicated tripod. I’ve read that an umbrella is somewhat an uncontrollable softbox because it sends light everywhere but the light is softer… Do you have a softbox yourself ? Would it make a huge difference for me to acquire an umbrella ?

Thanks for your answer !

8 years ago
Reply to  Balakov

I understand ! Thanks for those explanations ! I’ll stick with my softbox for a while…

I’ll try and shoot something similar as yours, just for the exercise :)

Your work is trully inspirational, thanks so much for sharing your advices and how you work !

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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